Monday, October 25, 2010

"Deleted" Facebook photos still not deleted: a followup

Via Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica

Facebook may be making strides in some areas of privacy, but the company is still struggling when it comes to deleting user photos—or not deleting them, as the case may be.

We wrote a piece more than a year ago examining whether photos really disappear from social network servers when you delete them, and found that Facebook was one of the worst offenders when it came to leaving "deleted" photos online. We decided to revisit the issue recently when readers continued to point out that our deleted photos from that article were still online more than 16 months later. Indeed, this old photo of me remains on Facebook's content delivery network (CDN) servers, despite being deleted on May 21, 2009

Read more here.


Christina O'Tousa said...

For the most part, it looks as if normal people without any special knowledge of how to search for these deleted pictures still wouldn't know how to find them. But I suppose people with special interests like corporate businesses hiring new employees would be able to find deleted pictures from Facebook really easily. I also find it interesting that Facebook has had an easier time "removing" deleted videos from it's cache. This sounds fishy to me because I would think it would be just as easy to delete a picture as a video? Or maybe even harder to delete a video from the cache because the file is so much larger and complex. What would be an interesting test would be for the authors of this article to delete a video from their Facebook and see if they are still able to find it afterwards, even though the Facebook spokesman said they had improved their "removing" system in regards to videos.

Lionel said...

I think we're all a little on edge now because of some of the things we've learned in this class, especially when it comes to privacy issues and Facebook. Sure, they should've figured out a way to speed this process up a long time ago. But as the article states, you need the direct URL to find these deleted photos. Someone doing a background check wouldn't have that. At best it'd be someone who you're "friends" with and they happened to save the URL instead of just the photo itself for some reason.

Though the general idea of there being "backups" of every photo you post online is troubling in the first place, I think being worried about someone finding them once they've been deleted puts the focus on the wrong area. It would be better to make sure inappropriate photos don't go up in the first place. Or better yet, try not taking them.

Steve said...

The fact that a photo deleted from Facebook may still remain on their content delivery system is less concerning than what the phenomenon says about the Facebook web-site in general: it looks like it is lazily coded. I have zero knowledge programming languages beyond basic HTML but can safely say that I have experienced plenty of bugs while using the site, as I'm sure others have as well. What does it mean for a site to be lazily coded? What is the implication for lazy coding in more "serious" applications (e.g. online banking)?

This recent article in Wired discusses a flaw in's security whereby variations on a user's password would also be accepted for log-in.

The common theme here is not maliciousness but negligence (or laziness) on the part of Facebook and Amazon. Can this be prevented? Can any type of oversight be introduced to help cut down on errors like these?